Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Light and Joy or the dark and negative?

I wasn’t planning on writing a post today, but something hit me as I was updating my prayer requests page. I was realizing just how much I have been allowing myself to entertain different thoughts. Do you do that too? A thought crosses your mind, and instead of just letting it go, dismissing it, or renouncing it (if it calls for that) and taking every thought captive… you call it back and say wait a minute, let me examine that more closely… you mull it over… you meditate on it. And suddenly it gains power over you. It causes your emotions to change, you start reacting to it. It was just a thought that had no hold on you, and now it is controlling you.

It’s not a good place to be. I have realized that lately I have had different thoughts come into my head and instead of dismissing them, or replacing them with thoughts of God, scripture I have memorized, etc. I have meditated on those thoughts. Negative thoughts, about myself… the “What’s wrong with me” thoughts, the “Why am I struggling with this… everyone else seems to do it ok…” thoughts. Just all the negative self talk we can generate on our own… and the negative thoughts and condemning thoughts that come from our enemy, who is trying to steal our joy and hope and peace away from us.

I guess the best defense is a strong offense. I have memorized some solid chunks of scripture. And I have gotten inspired to memorize some more. And funny thing is, it’s all out of the Old Testament right now. Something from Isaiah, and also from Joel. But right now, they are verses that really speak to me, and may help me see that I am not alone… that God promises certain things to me, and He is faithful, He can’t go against His nature of truth, so if He promises something, then He will fulfill it.

So the upshot of it is, will I meditate on the negative, or will I meditate on the positive? The more I can fill my head with Scripture, the more I will be able to have something near at hand to meditate on to replace the negative. I can mull over the truth, and examine the promises of God.

The challenge for myself, and for you as well is what will our focus be? Will we set our minds on the things of this world or on the things of heaven? Will we meditate on the lies, the negative thoughts, the dark dreams planted in our heads or will we meditate on the Truth, the things God says about us? Do we want to walk in darkness and follow that road, or do we want to have the light of life and follow our Savior?
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

As I thought about all the negative thoughts I had today, I realized it was coloring my whole outlook. I was thinking that this day was a loss, that there was nothing good in it. But then I stopped myself. There were some really wonderful things that happened today.

On my way out of town to a doctor’s appointment, I stopped at the local coffee shop, grabbed a latte, and settled down with my bible and journal. I had a great half hour with the Lord before I had to get up and get moving. I got to pray, study some scripture, and just soak it in. What a way to start the day!

When I went to my doctor, he told me that things seemed to be going well, answered a couple of questions I had, and then said to keep doing what I was doing, and unless anything came up or changed, he didn’t need to see me for another 2 months!

After that I got to go out to lunch with a very dear friend and sister. We had a wonderful time of sharing and laughing and just enjoying each other… talking about deep stuff for both of us, and still being silly and light and giggling like school girls a couple of times (those other people in Culver’s must have thought we were nuts!!!)

When I got home, my little boy was waiting for me so that I could tuck him in for his nap. We snuggled down on my bed, read a book, prayed, and then both fell asleep. I woke up about a half hour later, and he was tucked up tight against my back, sound asleep. And then, when my daughter woke up from her nap, she looked at the door expecting daddy to be getting her up. When she saw me, she shouted “MOMMY!!!” and nearly launched out of the crib into my arms.

What better memories to end my day on, rather than the negative thoughts that flooded in earlier this evening. Maybe that’s what we all have to do. Take an honest inventory of our day, and see what we did right, rather than what we did wrong. Find the joy moments that we had, and give the rest to God.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Provisions, encouragement, and comfort...

Today I had an all day rehearsal for the community choir I am in. We were there for 5 hours, but we had a break for lunch. Let me tell you, we put on a good spread. Incredible salads, warm casseroles, breads and spreads, gourmet desserts… there is no way you can go through the line and not feel compelled to have a little of everything. After we have gorged ourselves, our director then expects us to somehow sing again!

Looking back at the day, I realize how much God has truly blessed me. He has given me a few people within the choir that I am able to talk to. One of the older gentlemen, whom I am so privileged to know, has such a deep faith, wonderful sense of humor, and great compassion and understanding and discernment. One night after a rehearsal, he came up to me and said that he noticed something was different about me. He said he would look across the choir, and he didn’t see me smiling, or hear my laughter as much as he was used to. He wanted to be sure that I was alright.
I shared with him my struggles with depression and negative thoughts, among other things. When I started sharing, his eyes got all teary. He almost got me started! Then he revealed that he struggled with many of the same things, for different reasons. It was so encouraging to talk with him, and to feel the warmth of his friendship.

Since then, he has brought me a book to read that encouraged him. Periodically he also has given me some scripture verses, and devotionals that he has run across that have encouraged and challenged him. Just today, he walked across the choir to me and handed me some more devotionals and scripture verses on index cards that have helped him.

My children’s pediatrician sings in the choir with me. And there are a couple of others that know bits of my story there. I have a handful of people there that I don’t have to put up the mask with. I have in the past been able to walk into the choir rehearsals, smile and show by my actions that everything is “perfect” but now there are a few people who know me better. People who genuinely care about me, about my family, and how we are all doing.

I have realized today, just through a few conversations I had, that God has blessed me richly through being in this choir. He has given me an outlet for my musical skills, answered a desire of my heart to sing in a good choir. He has provided new friendships, and people to come alongside me, even if it is only for a season. I am so grateful for their reminders that people care about me, and the reminder through them, that God cares about me, loves me, and provides for me… even in the times of heartache and struggle… this season of life… this suffering.

"Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."
Romans 5:3-5

May He produce what He wants in me through this season of life.

May He purify me and make me more like His Son.

May I be able to use my experiences to help others as I have been helped by those who have traveled this road before me.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Joy, clouds, and a choice...

The last couple of days have been really good. I have had a lot of fun with the kids, and there have been a lot of moments of joy. Even yesterday was really good. I was busy getting the house ready for family group tonight, but had time to visit with a good friend, and play with the kids.

Dave got home from work in a great mood, and I ran to the grocery store to grab another ingredient for dinner. Got home, no problems with the kids or my husband, got supper on the table, etc. Then I sat down to eat. And I crashed. I have no idea why. I just crashed. I felt like crying, like the darkness that had been leaving me alone for a few days was suddenly back, heavier than before. I felt like crying for hours and hiding away for the rest of the night.

I have to confess I was in a horrible mood. Short with the kids, short with my husband. I felt so bad for them last night, but I just couldn’t stop. By the time the kids were in bed, I headed downstairs to our office retreat in the basement. I was a mess.

I regrouped and went to bed at a decent time. Slept ok, but had weird dreams, and was very restless. When I woke this morning, I still felt like I had a rain cloud over my head… ok, here, it would be considered snow… as it is so picking cold out!!! The metaphor still stands. I still felt stinky. (not literally) :)

I have worked all day to get the house ready to host study. Praise God Dave d0esn’t have to work tonight, so he can be here too. It will be the first time in a while that our whole small group will be here intact. We have so much to share and talk about, it will be good to see everyone again.

As I sat and tried to gather my thoughts this afternoon and spend some time with God, I started reading through some passages I had been given on depression. One of them referenced Psalm 27.

“Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; You have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.” Ps. 27:9-10

And that is how I have been feeling last night and today. That God has been hiding His face from me, a fear that He might reject or forsake me. But I like the last little bit of those verses… the Lord WILL receive me. A decision. A choice.

“For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.” Ps. 27:5

A choice to believe the truth. A choice to believe that He will do what He says He will do. A choice to believe that He is who He says He is.

A choice.

A decision of the will.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Safe places...

Do you have a safe place, or safe people to be with? What would it be like if we all felt we had somewhere to run to when things started feeling threatening, scary, overwhelming. Where we could feel protected, secure; where we could rest and regroup, get a new perspective, catch our breath.

In my email devotional today, the writer talked about how she was driving on a road down some steep mountains, and saw these runaway ramps for semi trucks that either lost their brakes, or were starting to get out of control. Somewhere they could go to stop and keep from harming themselves or other drivers on the road. She talked about us having runaway ramps built into our lives, before we got out of control, or before we got into a desperate situation. Whether that was a person, or a place or something we did that let off steam or pulled us off the destructive path we were going down.

In her prayer, she asked God to help her find people and places that were safe. It made me think about being in the hospital, and before coming home, they stressed that I had a few people and places that were safe for me to go to. Places that I could run to in times of stress, fear, etc.

Our ultimate safe place is in the arms of our Savior. Our ultimate safe person is our Heavenly Father. Because sometimes we need a tangible place, or a tangible hug, He gives us other people and places to go, where we can sense His presence and His love, through them. I find it so amazing to look at my life right now, and see how He has provided specific people at specific times to minister to me. To be the safety for me that I needed right then and there. Some of it is so simple… my family, a couple of close friends, my small group, my counselor and her office, our church building, the local coffee shop… such simple and unexpected things. But so very precious.

So I end as I started…

Do you have safe people or a safe place to run to in times of desperation? Do you find your ultimate safety in your Savior and God?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Speak, O Lord...

Speak, O Lord

Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of Your Holy Word.
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us;
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness,
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us
All Your purposes for Your glory.

Teach us, Lord, full obedience,
Holy reverence, true humility;
Test our thoughts and our attitudes
In the radiance of Your purity.
Cause our faith to rise; cause our eyes to see
Your majestic love and authority.
Words of pow’r that can never fail—
Let their truth prevail over unbelief.

Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds;
Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us—
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time
That will echo down through eternity.
And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises,
And by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us.
Speak, O Lord, till Your church is built
And the earth is filled with Your glory.

Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2005 Thankyou Music

We sang this song this morning at church. The words really hit me… having God take His Truth and plant it deep within me… Test my thoughts and my attitudes in the radiance of Your purity. Cause my faith to rise; cause my eyes to see Your majestic love and authority… Help me grasp the heights of Your plans for me… if that is truly my heart’s cry, I know that God will answer it. He answered my simple cry last night just to be able to go to church. I have to trust Him. I must totally rely on my Savior and the Truth. It is hard… always hard.

Praying for more faith… I know that I need it (faith that is). I see the things that He does, the little things, like making the snow delay long enough for us to get to church as a family today… our neighbor across the street coming home, just in time to see Dave giving up on our snow blower and starting to shovel his way down the driveway, calling up to me that he would be out there for a while, and he offered his snow blower to Dave. It took Dave no more than 5 minutes to clear the driveway with that monster of a machine. Dave came in so blessed (and with extreme snow blower envy…) and was able to relax with the kids… God allowing me the time to go outside with Peter after supper to play in the snow, and clear the end of the driveway after the plow came through one more time…

It’s little stuff like that. So why do I doubt so quickly that He will answer the big stuff… is it because I don’t see it happening in my time, or the answers are happening, but so slow that I don’t see the change? A couple of people that I trust have said they see the growth in me, see Christ through me, working in me… I just don’t see it, feel it… it frustrates me. It frustrates me to see the doubt and struggles in a couple of my last few posts… I have written them later at night, so probably my views are getting skewed by being tired, but I feel like I should be doing better…. that I should somehow put up the mask, and make it out that things are better than they really are. But then I am not being transparent… Like I said, frustrating.

Lord, give me the grace to stand on your promises, so that in faith I will walk as you walk with me… Let me reflect Your glory and not walk in shame at my past, but in the glorious freedom of forgiveness. Walking dressed in the white robe, as white as the new snow outside… purchased with your precious blood. Help me to realize the truth that You rejoice over me with gladness. Quiet me with Your love. Let me hear your singing as you rejoice over me.
(paraphrased from Zephaniah 3:17)

Praise, thankfulness, and still... snow...

I am sitting at my kitchen table while the kids are eating their breakfast, watching the snow fall. Praise God that it didn’t start till about 20 minutes ago, so we will be heading to church…. as a family. Probably the first time in a month at least, due to Dave’s work schedule, and other circumstances. I woke just thankful for the day and the snow and for my family.

I just wanted to share my gratefulness for another day of life with you. Maybe now this afternoon, I will be able to play in the snow with my kids, or my husband, or both! :) God has just given me a sense of peace this morning, that I haven’t had in a while. What a blessing. God I am so grateful for today, for my family, for the chance to go to church with them all. And to be able to see the rest of my family at church… You heard the desire of my heart last night, and gave it to me as an added blessing this morning. Thank you God, thank you for being so wonderful to me. Thank You for creating my inmost being, for searching me and knowing my heart, testing me and knowing my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen and Amen.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Healing, snow, and transparency...

Today, some of the things I have worked on and thru have shown me yet again, how hard it is to heal. I have been working thru some emotional baggage, and it is taking a lot more work than I anticipated. I am so tired emotionally, and physically now… I feel like I just got out of a tough counseling session. Go figure! I probably have pushed myself a little bit more today than I needed to. If I want to really heal, I know that it is going to be hard work. And knowing myself, because I like studying, and I like doing “homework,” anything that my counselor asks me to do, things that she knows will help me heal, I will do. Dave told me that sometime I should just not do the homework. Yeah, I just can’t do that. I don’t know that I have the capability. I am working on not being the perfect client… at least my counselor wants me to do that, but that may be the assignment that I don’t do!

Beyond that, today, we went under a winter storm warning… they are predicting 6-12 inches in our general area and 5-8 inches in the Wausau area. Now I tell you, and any of my friends can attest to it, that I absolutely love snow! However, because Dave and I missed our small group this week, I have really been looking forward to going to church tomorrow. If church is canceled, or if we can’t get our of our driveway, I am going to be really disappointed. I was out twice this week without the children. Once to my friend Cindy’s house for a few hours of fellowship, and then the next morning for my counseling appointment. Wednesday morning was my counseling appointment, and today (Saturday) was the first time out of the house since then. I took Peter with me to go shopping, eat and then get his hair cut. It was fun, but I would have loved to gone to lunch with a friend or something, or done something for myself. It sounds selfish to me to even write it. But I have a couple of gift certificates… to bookstores, and to a clothes store at the mall. It would be really nice to get out and use them.

Then of course, it is still really nice to be able to take care of my family. I love the kids, and I have had a good week with Peter and Marina. Some good play times and snuggle times. And it was nice to be able to stay home with Dave on Valentines day. Valentines has not been a high rater in my life. Let’s just say there have been a few incidents that have been rather painful that have happened to me on Valentine’s Day, so it is not my most favorite holiday.

I talked to Dave about it and mentioned that, and Dave said that he wasn’t those people. I told him that I know that. However much I know that, sometimes it is really hard to know in my heart… the “holiday” has just been tainted for me. Maybe someday I will get beyond that. I at least was able to stay home, and show Dave that I loved him, and gave him a card. It was nice to be here with him. Maybe that is just a step in right direction. A step toward healing.

And maybe sometime I will be able be healed enough that when it is appropriate, I will be able to be fully transparent and authentic. I know that’s what God wants his followers to be… transparent and authentic so that Christ can be seen through us.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sections of our lives...

Well, yesterday at counseling we talked about a lot of things. One of the things we were talking about was how each of us has different roles we play in our lives. My counselor gave me a diagram to help demonstrate how it works. Each of the sections is a different role. Mom, daughter, sister, singer, wife, job, etc. And for most of us, one of the sections is pain, where the “hurt child” part of us is too. Some of us separate out our pain sections by not allowing it to touch the other areas. (note the dark black lines around that section, and no arrows) All the other areas kind of blend back and forth. We may act different as a friend or sister than we do when we are in our “wife” role (substitute in your own roles), but we remember who we are through all of them. For me, my pain is so isolated, that any event that causes me pain goes there. That section I think has been growing more and more for me, and though it was completely separate, when I was experiencing the pain, or in that hurt child section, I was unable to function in any of the other areas. I forgot who I was at my core when I was there.

What we are doing through our counseling is trying to break down the dark lines that are separating the pain part of me from everything else. We are trying to make those lines blur so that hurt child can heal and become part of the whole. When I am hurt as a wife, or as a mom, or as a daughter or whatever, the ideal is that I won’t compartmentalize it any more, and I will be able to still be a wife in pain, or mom in pain, or daughter in pain as the case may be. The problem is right now, those lines are mostly in place still, and the little breaks that are in them, are allowing me to see the hurt from the other areas, and starting to experience it in the other areas of my life. It gets overwhelming. It hurts. It is difficult to focus on anything else. I am trying to trust that God will take care of me through this all. That I don’t need to know all the answers, but that He does, and doesn’t need to tell me… I just need to trust that He is with me, and that somehow all this will work out.

There was so much more that we talked about yesterday. So many things that we have found we need to deal with. When we were done, my counselor asked me how I was doing. I looked away for a moment, and said “I feel like I could curl up somewhere and cry for about 3 hours. The problem is that I have to drive home now and will probably cry all the way home which is not a good idea while driving.” She agreed that wasn’t a good idea, and she suggested I find somewhere to sit and get it out. Then she prayed for me, and the tears came of course. I left, nearly fled, the office and headed down the hall to the bathroom on that floor. I was able to lock the door behind me, and just crumpled to the floor and cried. I only was able to allow myself 10 minutes because I needed to go and pick up my sick son from his grandparents. So I pulled myself together, and headed home. I am not going back to my counselor until next week Friday. I think I will be able to manage until then. I was so anxious yesterday because of Peter being sick and thinking about stuff we had talked about that I was unable to do any journaling or anything. I was just in survival mode. I went to bed last night with a slightly upset stomach, though I think some of that was from the anxiety. Hopefully things will be better today.

I am so thankful that God is my strength in my weakness. For I feel very weak right now. Unable to cope, unable to think about getting through this weekend, much less this week. I feel like I want to go in to see my counselor sooner, just so that I can work through some more things. I don’t think there are any openings in her schedule that accomidate my schedule, so I will just wait. I pray for the strength to deal with anything that comes up this weekend and next week. And I pray that someday I will be able to not feel like I am hanging on by my fingernails. I pray that some day I will be able to not only believe, but know in my heart that God sent Jesus to…

Comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion -
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
And that someday I will among those called…
oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of His splendor.
(Isaiah 61:3)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Radient faces and shame...

Today I was visiting a blog by Lysa TerKeurst and her blog for the day really touched my heart. She talked about how she didn’t want to tell her “real” or whole testimony to others because it wasn’t neat and clean and tidy. When she finally followed God’s leading, and shared her shame, she said she saw God finally use what she had gone through.
“Seeing God use the very thing that made me feel utterly worthless to help others, changed everything. I was finally free from Satan’s chains of shame and could see his lies for what they were.” Lysa TerKeurst

I don’t think that I am there yet. She mentioned that while God was working on her heart, He kept whispering over and over that He loved her. There are times where I sense that. There are other times that I struggle so much. Will He actually bring good out of the junk I have gone through, the wrong choices I have made, the abuse and rejection I have faced, the world of hurt I feel now? I have to trust that He will. His word says that He will work all things for the good of those who love Him. If I believe that the Bible is God’s word to us, and that it is truth (and I do) then I have to believe that all of it is true. Including that verse. If I don’t believe it, I have no hope. And where would I be without hope. A lot of days there is little time for me to even think, much less look for the hope that is there. My kids keep me busy, my life keeps me busy. There are a few times, like now when my kids are eating, that I have a few moments of peace to think and pray. I have to look up… I HAVE to look up and seek His face.

One of my friends quoted the following verse to me once, and though I can’t quote it by heart yet, it means a lot to me.
"Those who look to Him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame."

Psalm 34:5

Maybe someday I will finally feel that. Maybe someday I will reflect only His glory and not feel or notice or be worried about the shame. Maybe someday I will be so enraptured by Him, that I will not even hear the lies of the enemy trying to make me feel ashamed again. I guess that is hope, isn’t it?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Psalm 139...

Well, here it is. My counselor wanted me to read Psalm 139. My husband suggested writing it on my blog, not just doing a copy and paste, but to actually write it out “manually” so to speak. I wanted to memorize it so that it would be easier to meditate on, and really hang onto the verses. This is a combo of all three. I read it, I memorized it, and now I am posting it… from memory, no helps. I already wrote it out in my handwritten journal, now here it is for my blog. I hope it means as much for you as it has for me… now to only believe it and truly internalize it!

Oh Lord, you have searched me and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise,
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue,
you know it completely, oh God.
You hem me in - behind and before,
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there.
If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise up on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea;
Even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me,
the light become night around me,”
even darkness will not be dark to you,
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being.
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

How precious to me are your thoughts, Oh Lord!
How vast the sum of them.
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake, I am still with you.

If only you would slay the wicked, oh God.
Away from me you bloodthirsty men!
They speak of you with evil intent.
Your adversaries misuse your name.
Do I not hate those who hate you, oh Lord,
and abhor those who rise up against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them,
I count them my enemies.

Search me, oh God, and know my heart.
Test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

More about hope...

What do we place our hope in? Do we place our hope in God? If we don’t, what do we place our hope in? Even if we say we have no hope in anything, that isn’t really true. I can say, “I see no hope,” but I still keep on living day to day, meeting my obligations… I must be placing some sort of hope in something… mustn’t I? Whether it is financial security, pleasure, self-fulfillment, schemes of my own, relationships, or even my independence and grit to just keep on going…

The book I am reading right now “The Upside of Down,” says that healing beings with a choice to place our hope in Him. But is also says that our hope is threatened sometimes by the haunting sense that He is the One to blame for all our troubles. Since He is a God who is all-powerful and sovereignly aware of every moment and movement on this planet, could not He have prevented what happened and granted us an exemption from trauma, as He seems to have done for others? Is He to blame? Could a loving God who says He is concerned for us ever have a reason to let us experience such trauma? Until we understand His place in our problem, hoping in Him will be a tough assignment. (pg. 25)

The questions above that Stowell wrote about, are exactly some of the questions I have had rolling about in my mind for months now. I don’t know if I can come up with the answers now or ever. I suppose some things are never going to be answered. One of the things I have come across in my counseling and working through things is the realization that He is always with us. I can’t escape His presence. Though I haven’t walked through therapy with all the traumas yet, the ones that I have, I have gotten the distinct sense that God has been there, even in/through the trauma, whether I was a Christian at the time or not.

Sometimes that is a comfort, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it still makes me wonder why He was there, standing by my side, yet didn’t stop whatever it was that was happening, especially when I was younger, and couldn’t do anything about it… couldn’t do anything different by my choices… when I was powerless.

Maybe someday I will get an answer to why. Why didn’t He intervene? Why didn’t He spare me? Why did He allow me to suffer? Then again, maybe I won’t ever know the answers. Am I willing to live with that? Are you? Can I walk on in faith that even in the pain He loves me? Even in the pain He is there? Even in the pain, that He doesn’t stop, He will still work in my life? Can you? It takes FAITH to believe that God is who He says He is. That He does what He says He can do. That I am who God says I am. That I can do all things through Christ. That God’s Word is alive and active in me. (borrowed from Beth Moore’s bible study Believing God) Can I walk in that FAITH? Can you?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Anger, hurt and hope...

I have been struggling all weekend with what I should write here. There are some things that are too private. I know that God is guiding me, but some of the things I have to work through are so painful. One of my biggest problems… I tend to shut down most negative emotions. So when I have anger or negative thoughts about someone, I don’t acknowledge them, I don’t even consciously think about them for more than maybe a day or so, and then its stuffed way down inside. I may still be bitter at the person, or I may have forgiven them, but I still am dealing with the after effects of the anger, because I have turned that anger on myself, rather than dealing with the anger right away, and resolving it.

My counselor is trying to help me work through the negative emotions that I have developed through different experiences in my life. When I have stuffed anger and not even acknowledged it, I end up turning it on myself. It has manifested itself as depression and self hate. But let me tell you, it is really hard for me to acknowledge that anger towards someone else. I don’t want to, because I feel it is dishonoring to those people…. and so I try to stuff again, but this time it isn’t as easy, because I have started to acknowledge that anger inside. I know it is there. I don’t want to face it. But I know it is there. I try to hide from it. But I know it is there.

But the biggest thing I can’t hide from is God. And He is bigger than the anger inside, bigger than my darkest thoughts, bigger than my wildest hopes, bigger than my deepest despair, bigger than my largest dreams.

"Where can I go from your Spirit, where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens You are there. If I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me, the light will become night around me,” even darkness will not be dark to you, the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you."
Psalm 139:7-12

I can’t hide from God. I can’t shroud myself in darkness. I can try, but it won’t work. Because God created my inmost being, He knit me together in my mothers womb. I am fearfully and wonderfully made, all His works are wonderful, I know that full well.

I mentioned that my counselor challenged me to read Psalm 139. It was good timing. When I was looking at it earlier this week, I determined that I was going to memorize it, rather than just read it. I figured I would internalize it better. I was right. As of tonight I have 18 verses memorized. I have 6 more to go before Wednesday. I want to have the whole thing memorized by the time I go to see her so that I can show her that I not only did I read it but I memorized it. I want to have these verses on hand as I struggle through things, so that I can be reminded that God is my God, the one who created me.

A good friend that I sing with in choir came to me tonight and gave me a book to read… “The Upside of Down: Finding Hope When it Hurts,” by Joseph Stowell. Already I can tell that it is going to be a good book. I am praying that it will help me grab on to more truths, that will help me through this time of struggle, that will give me hope. For I need that hope that only God can give me through His word and truth. It has been a long, long road. And I think I still have a long road ahead of me.

As a song “Hear me Calling, Great Redeemer,” by Fernando Ortega says;
“As I walk, Lord through the valley, hold my hand, hold my trembling hand. If I stumble by the wayside, in Your strength, help me stand.”

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Value, significance, and rose colored glasses...

Everyone has lies they believe… lies about themselves (or others) that have been planted and enforced by careless words of others, or circumstances in their lives, things that have happened to them, or things that they have needed that they haven’t gotten. I know that has happened to me. Some of the lies have been planted so deep, that they go right down to the core of me, the core of my heart, completely affecting how I look at myself. These lies are affecting my fundamental beliefs about myself, and that affects how I act and react to things my life, and how I treat myself, and what I believe about God.

One of the major lies that we encountered last week was I am a mistake, and I am unwanted, un-needed. Yesterday my counselor helped me pinpoint one of the experiences that really rooted that lie in me. As we talked about it and started working through it, she helped me come up with a couple of positive beliefs that could cancel out the lies. They were I am valuable, and I am significant. She wanted to know where I stood on a scale of 1-7 (1 being I can’t believe/feel it one iota, 7 being I not only know it but feel it) in believing I am valuable and significant. I told her 1. Then my counselor asked me if she changed the statement to “I can learn to believe that I am valuable and significant.” I told her I still was only at a 2 on that. Just barely knowing that I could learn this… I doubt it so much right now. After we worked through things some, she asked me how I was doing at the end, and where I rated that phrase again on a scale of 1-7. I said that I was probably still at a 2. She said that was OK, and that it may increase during the week.

All of this to say, she gave me an assignment to read through Psalm 139. I haven’t been able to read through that for about 6 months or more. There is one thing that she has learned about me. I am a good student, and if she asks me to do something, I will do it. I feel committed to doing it. That is just part of my make up. I tend to believe what people say about me (especially the negative) and take it really to heart, and I have a huge sense of responsibility, so if someone tells me to do something, or asks me to, I will do it. So, last night I sat down on the couch after it was quiet, curled up in the corner with a blanket and some pillows and opened my journal and my bible. I finally opened it up to Psalm 139 and read the first verse…

Oh Lord, You have searched me and You know me.

…that was as far as I could get. Because for God to have searched me, He has looked into me, searched out all the nooks and crannies, and because of that He knows me intimately. And because I know me (and don’t like me) it immediately makes me think that there is no way that God, knowing everything about me, could possibly like me, or smile at me, or love me. Yet it hit me last night that again in Romans 8, Paul talked about nothing being able to separate us from the love of God in Christ…. not life or death. And I guess that means that if I screw up in this life, it still doesn’t separate me from His love. That means, if He has searched me and knows me, and He knows all the crud, all the pain, all the joys… He still loves me, because my life, my actions, thoughts, feelings, can’t separate me from God’s love. I am writing that here, and logically working that out as I type this and you read it. But there is a major battle going on for my mind right now. A battle between the Truth and the lies. A battle between my value and significance in Christ, and my being a mistake, unwanted, un-needed. Those lies look so awful in writing…

When my counselor was helping me come up with the positive thoughts to replace the lies, she literally just started throwing out a bunch of words, and asked me which ones I reacted to emotionally the most. And “coincidentally” the very first two words she said were “value” and “significance.” When she said those two, I nearly started to cry because they resonated in my heart at such a deep level. They filled me with hurt (that I didn’t believe them), fear (that I never will), and the deepest longing (to actually be able to believe them). That longing. That from the gut, can’t explain, deepest cry from the very fiber of my being, desperate desire. That started wrenching tears from me when nothing else could yesterday. I left her office having shed only a few tears, but with this sorrow and gut twisting ache, that I just wasn’t able to let out, even when I was willing to. It made me sick to my stomach and shaky. My counselor said that the tears would come. They would come when the time was right, and when I was ready and able to deal with them. Please God let that be soon!

I don’t know when or where all these doubts surfaced, but one of the things my counselor told me early on in our first sessions, was that she sees many people who after they became Christians, horrible things happened to them, traumas and pain. She said that the enemy tries to keep us from becoming Christians, but once we are Christ’s own, he will do anything to keep us from being effective followers, anything to keep us wounded and believing lies and hurting, so that we never use the gifts we have been given… or if we do, they get warped and used in ways God wouldn’t have designed. I can see that in my own life. How many things I could have done differently, people I could have helped. But somehow, I have to grasp on to the verse that God will work all for the good of those who love Him. Not that all things ARE good, but will be worked FOR THE GOOD. The bad will be used to strengthen us and teach us, the good will be used to give us joy and hope. In the end of it all we (I) will have developed perseverance and character and hope.

God help me cling to that promise. That You love me. That You will lead me. That You will work all things together for my good in the end. Help me to cling to that so that I can do battle against all the lies in my head, against all the voices screaming at me that I am worthless, can’t be forgiven, won’t ever be needed, or loved, can’t make a difference, don’t have a purpose. Help me read and study through Psalm 139 and cling to the truth there… one of the phrases I remember off the top of my head… that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Lord, keep me going down this road, even though it is painful and hard to walk on. Help me to remember that I have chosen You, that I have chosen to forgive myself, because You already have, and You see me through Christ’s blood, through rose colored glasses. AMEN!

Story from a friend...

Ok, so I am doing a lot of posts today. But thoughts keep coming to me. The following is a story a good friend and mentor told me, when I was in the midst of another battle between the truth and the lies…

There was a man who was a tour guide in the Holy Land. He would take the big tour buses around the country side, narrating as they went. Invariably they would at some point pass a flock of sheep. The tour guide would start telling the tourists how shepherds worked with their sheep. They would walk in front of the flock, talking, and because they had been raised with him, and knew him, they would follow that shepherd where ever he went.

One day, as the tour guide and a group of people were passing through the countryside, they noticed a flock of sheep and the tour guide launched into the same story. However someone pointed out that the shepherd wasn’t in front of the sheep, he was behind them with a switch, driving them ahead of him, and hitting them if they started to go the wrong way. The tour guide was so incensed with this, that he made the tour bus stop, and he got out to talk to the shepherd.

He yelled at him, “This isn’t the way a shepherd was supposed to guide his sheep. You are supposed to be out in front of them guiding and leading them, not driving them with a switch from behind!”

The man looked at the tour guide for a moment and then said,
“I am not the shepherd. I am the butcher.”

So, my question today is this. Are you feeling led in love, or driven in fear?

Ode to the Kudla Koff...

I thought everyone would get a kick out of this. This was written by our teenage neighbor. Our house has been kicking around a cold for the last few months, and because he comes over often, he has gotten it, and been out of school for most of the week. This was his ode to the cold… promted by being bored out of his gourd, and he said it might have something to do with the 4000psi of pressure in his head, and the sense of a big fat guy sitting on his chest… Enjoy….

i’ve kought the kudla koff
and i really must protest
to the big ole fat guy,
that i feel sitting on my chest

i’ve kought the kudla koff
and though its gotten my pathetic buns,
out of their seat in school;
i really dont like to cough.
eeeeww i just started to drool.

i’ve kought the kudla koff
and though its given me ample time
to make a rhyme or limerick
i really do not like it
because it makes my lungs go: “ka-jiberick”

I’ve kought the kudla koff…..

wait wait wait. hold it right there

“who are you”

i’m the technicality inspector. there’s been a code violation


yes. it seems that its not actually the Kudla Koff any more. it’s been mutating in your body, such as it is, enough so that it cant be called the Kudla Koff anymore.

“well what am i supposed to call it then? the partially mutated bacterium previously known as the Kudla Koff…”

i’m not the poetic one here. i’m just doing my job

“fine then…”

—-minutes later—

I’ve got the bad blount boogies
and i really do not like them
they make me feel all icky
and then i cough up phlegm

its me again

“What? for the love of sweet swiss cheese what do you want now?!?”

well are you really going to say that? thats just nasty…

“you know what, fine. YOU try writing with a head cold and making it rhyme!!!”

—storms off in a huff—

… hey, come back? aren’t you going to finish it?

**Courtesy of Matt Blount, our teenage neighbor kid…. (a.k.a. our “other son”)

Monday, February 4, 2008

Pain and a clean slate...

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11(NIV)

This verse came up in my email devotional that I get each morning. The author wrote that even in the midst of the most horrific pain in her life (emotional pain), how could she ever doubt or forget the above truth.

Like I said in an earlier post, there are going to be good days and bad. Days of pain and days of hope. Today was one of pain… not only of low patience with the kids, and extreme tiredness, from not being able to sleep well last night, but also of physical pain. As I get stressed out, I tend to have back problems. My neck and upper shoulder on my left side have been really hurting ever since I got up this morning. They are still hurting even now, after pain medication, heating pads and anything else I can think of to relieve it. I even tried exercise (using the snow blower and shovel to clear the driveway tonight with the kids) but nothing seemed to help.

So this wasn’t such a good day. I talked with my mom today, and she suggested going outside with the kids to play in the snow, clear the driveway, anything to get us out of the house for a bit, because it sounded like we were all going stir crazy. She was right of course. We came in wet, cold and tired. But I am still wide awake. The other thing she suggested was to clean the house if I couldn’t sleep, at least then it would be productive time… I also may spend some time in prayer, just to try to keep me focused on something else.

I guess the pain never really goes away. We all have pain of some sort in our lives. We all are dealing with some sort of struggle, whether we admit it or not. The thing is, we need to determine how we are going to either get beyond the pain, through it, or live with it and make it bearable. One of my friends knows someone who has struggled with depression and chronic pain for many, many years. And somehow, she is joyful in all things, despite the physical and emotional pain. I am not there yet. I struggle with being happy when things are good. Sometimes I can’t see beyond the one thing immediately in front of me. I can’t focus on the kids, because really I am nowhere in the room with them even if I am physically there.
I fight through day by day, and try to not focus too far ahead of me. The pain is still there, the struggle is still there, even if others think that the crisis is over now. I am still slogging through the mire… the valley of the shadow of death… but I choose to fear no evil, for You Lord are with me. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever! That goodness and mercy… I may not feel that all the time… feelings don’t always reflect the truth of a situation. Sometimes I can’t remember that till the very end of the day, and I can’t change the way I have acted during that day. But God always gives us a new day to improve upon the previous one.

Praise Him for that! Praise Him for a new day with family and friends, and a clean slate to write on, and this time, maybe get a bit more correct… a bit more in His will.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Forgiveness and faithfulness...

Today at church our pastor was talking about “Biblical Community” and what that meant. He used the passage from 1 Corinthians 11, starting at verse 17. It talked about how the church in Corinth was so contentious and there was so much in fighting, they were not being the body of Christ. The church would gather in homes and eat meals together, but some were getting there early and eating almost all the food before others could get there, and so some were going without. And Paul told the church that they were not breaking the bread with the right heart. He said that if any of them were eating the bread and drinking the cup without recognizing the body of the Lord (without examining himself inside) eats and drinks judgment on himself.

Where this is going… our pastor said that communion is only one part of living in community. We are all part of the body of Christ, and the essence of it is, we need to treat each other that way. We need to care for those who need care, encourage those who are struggling, in general, love each other. It reminded me of a story my husband told me.

A former pastor of his had a communion service. Before he served communion, he told people that one of the big things about communion, is that taking it in an unworthy manner is against what God wants. He told them that they needed to be able to take it without any bitterness in their hearts. Bitterness stems from unforgiveness. He told his congregation that if they had anything against another member of the body of Christ, they needed to resolve it first. He made phones available for those who needed to make phone calls, rooms available for those who needed to talk, and after a bit, brought everyone back to take communion together.

Again there is a point… the pastor was talking about forgiving others before taking communion. These thoughts were running through my head today as we were preparing for communion. One of the things we had talked about at my counseling appointment was not only forgiving others, but forgiving myself, for the things in my past. My counselor told me that not being willing or able to forgive myself was a form of pride. Essentially it was saying that what Jesus did on the cross was not enough. That His suffering was not enough to cleanse me from my sins, and that I had to suffer more… it was hard to hear that it was pride. But yet again, God made connections for me today. I remembered my husband’s story, and what my counselor had said to me. And so after the bread was passed today, I had some time to pray before we took it. I made the conscious decision to forgive myself. God reminded me that His blood covered everything I had done in the past, everything that had been done to me, and that He had been there with me in those times, and was with me now. And I was able to let it go, let myself off the hook I had hung myself on. That doesn’t mean that it won’t all come up again, and that I won’t feel guilty, but then it won’t be a guilt of an unforgiven sin, but a “false guilt” that one of my friends referred to. I can remember this day and say, “Nope, I have already taken care of that.” It didn’t feel like a huge change, but I felt a little lighter as I left the sanctuary today, and I was able to share with my community group the change that had taken place before taking communion today.

God has been doing things in the last week, that have started to get me back on track with Him, and back on track with the healing process. I feel so much better than I did last week at this time. Pray that I will continue down the road that God has set me upon. There are still things that I need to sort through, but this has been the first time in weeks that I have been relatively calm, and not dealing with as much anxiety. I understand now why some people after they are under treatment for a while, when they start feeling better, think that they can stop their medications, their treatment plans. Because I have started to feel better and think more clearly, it makes me want to stop taking “the pills” and to just live my life without having to be tied to pill bottles. I know, I know… I won’t, but now I understand why some people do.

Anyway, thank you for your prayers, and Praise God for His faithfulness to me, and His forgiveness.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Rebuke in Love, and re-direction...

***Note for all those who read this post earlier…
Somehow when I was adding a new category to this post, when I hit save, all the original text disappeared. So I am retyping this from memory, and hoping I get most of it back in here…

Prior to yesterday’s counseling session, I sat in the office trying to relax, and journaled a prayer to God, asking Him to help focus me, and prepare my heart to hear what my counselor had to say. When I walked into her office and got settled, she asked me how my week had been. I read parts of my journal entries to her, from earlier in the week. She got this funny look on her face, and then cautioned me about journaling too much.

She read to me a verse from Ecclesiastes 7:18. Summarized, it talked about doing everything in moderation, and avoiding extremes. She said that journaling, in and of itself isn’t wrong, but if I do too much, I start over analyzing things and can start pulling myself down in decreasing spirals. That is what happened Wednesday afternoon. The journaling could become addictive, just like anything else can. When she first started talking about limiting my journaling time, I could feel myself resisting what she was saying. I started to feel like she was wanting to take something away from me. I think she sensed that, because she was gentle about what she was saying, and she didn’t crush my spirit. She said that she didn’t want me to stop, but only to limit it.

Ecc. 7:5 says, “It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than to hear the song of the fools.”

Rebuke seems like too strong a word to use for what my counselor did yesterday. But in reality, it was. She rebuked me for going overboard, but she did it gently and in love. It put a whole new spin on the conversation, and I felt my heart responding, and my spirit within me agreeing with what she was saying. I realized that for a while now my journaling had gotten away from prayers to God, to talking more about myself, my feelings, my thoughts.

When I got home that night, I read Ecc. chapter 7, just to get the context of the verses we had looked at in the office. There I came across the following verse, and it just seemed to apply directly to me, and my situation, the things I am going through.

“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.” Ecc. 7:14

I felt like suddenly I was given permission to be happy (joyful as the KJV says) when things are going well. When my children cuddle me, or I can snuggle with Dave, or when my son looks up at me and says, “Mommy your hair is really pretty.” I can enjoy that. I don’t have to put on a gloomy face, but get down on the floor with the kids and play.

And God makes or allows the bad as well. The bad is there for our growth in perseverance, strength, character, hope. As Romans 8:28 says, “God works together all things for the good of those who love Christ.” It doesn’t mean we won’t see trouble. But He will be with us through it all. If only I can remember that in the midst of the trouble!

We had looked through Romans 8 where it talks about nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. So I read the whole chapter to get the context again. The first verse talks about how there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… because the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. Set me free. Whether I feel it or not, it is a fact.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:35 and 37
Nothing can separate me from Christ, even all the condemning thoughts that come at me. Through Christ, I am a conqueror… more than a conqueror. Also the reminder that God is for me, who can be against me. Lately I have been feeling that He has been against me. That He has hidden His face from me. I wrote in my journal today, and I will end with this…

“I think I had started to believe that You were against me, that You had hidden Your face from me. What a lie… You didn’t even spare Your own Son from a horrible death, so that we could all be with You. So now that Christ has died and risen - along with Him, You graciously give to us… and there is that word again. Grace.”

Praise God for His mercy, and for His using my counselor the way He did to re-direct my path. How He took me through several chapters of the bible to learn some new things last night, and rediscover truths I knew and forgot.